North Jersey Parish Hosts Priestly Ordination of Paul Keenan

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. — At a festive evening ceremony last week, Paul Keenan, OFM, was ordained a priest during a Mass at Assumption of Our Blessed Lady Church, where he has been stationed since 2011.

The Most Rev. John Flesey, auxiliary bishop of Newark, N.J., celebrated the Rite of Presbyteral Ordination at the 5:30 p.m. Mass on Nov. 9. Also participating in the Mass were vested celebrants Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, Richard Mucowski, OFM, pastor of Assumption, and Joseph Nangle, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., the Province’s director of post-novitiate formation.

Christopher Coccia, OFM, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, New York City, served as master of ceremonies, with Jeffery Jordan, OFM, of St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y., as his assistant.

Several simply-professed friars were acolytes, carrying the cross, mitre, and crosier, setting up the altar with the gifts, preparing the incense, and other duties.

One of them, Casey Cole, OFM, of Holy Name College, said in a post on his blog, “Breaking in the Habit,” that he “couldn’t have been happier and more confirmed in my vocation after this experience. Seeing Paul standing in the place where I hope to be standing in four or five years was really inspiring; thinking about Paul standing where I was a few years ago was pretty surreal; hearing the bishop speak about the role of the priest in the Church, that ofservant of the people, was humbling.”

Giving Thanks
The ordination was “about service and ministry and responding in a spirit of faith and gratitude to the call to sacramental ministry that was offered to me by the parish and ministerial communities I have been a part of, as well as the encouragement and support of my Franciscan brothers,” said Paul, who was feted with a reception in the parish hall after the Mass.

“Of all my responsibilities as Minister Provincial, one of my favorites is being at ordinations,” said John. “They are joyful and very touching.”

At the close of Mass, John offered greetings from the Province to Paul’s late mother and father, mentioning that Paul’s parents “are probably very proud today.”

Among those who attended the ordination Mass and reception were Brian Cullinane, OFM, of Boston, former pastor of Assumption, and Cassian Miles, OFM, of Butler, N.J., who served the parish from 2005 to 2009, as well as friars who ministered at parishes in neighboring towns in past years.

Looking Back 
Paul grew up in Plainview, N.Y., and became acquainted with the friars, while working at a summer job in the Garment District of New York City, two blocks from the Province’s St. Francis of Assisi Church, where he attended Mass. After six years of active duty with the U.S. Air Force, Paul returned to New York City, often visiting St. Francis Church, where he said he always felt welcomed. He was received into the Order in 2002 and professed his final vows in 2007.

Paul has ministered at a hospital, nursing home, and retirement home for priests in Washington. He has also served at St. Francis Parish in New York City, St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, and St. Joseph Parish in Wilmington, Del., as well as at St. Francis Inn, the soup kitchen in Philadelphia.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1979, a master’s in human resource management from Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash., and a master’s in social work from Adelphi University, Garden City, N.Y. He earned a master of divinity degree in 2010 from the Washington Theological Union.

The morning after his ordination, Paul celebrated his first Mass. Photos of the ordination and other parish events can be found on Assumption Parish’s Facebook page.

Last year, three HNP friars were ordained priests: Stephen DeWitt, OFM, and Daniel Horan, OFM, in May, and Francis Critch, OFM, in November.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. She and Octavio Duran, OFM, provided photos.